How badly did Lyons Village President Christopher Getty and those allied with him want to win back control of the Lyons District 103 Board of Education. Badly enough to spend nearly $20,000 on the campaign.
The spending paid off as the Getty backed Parents for Student Excellence slate swept to victory sweeping all four board seats at stake in the April 2 election and gaining control of the seven-member school board.
Filings last week with the Illinois State Board of Elections show that the campaign committee for the Getty backed Parents for Students Excellence (PSE) slate spent $12,574 on the campaign and a political committee formed to help the Getty backed candidates spent another $7,300 to mail out two separate campaign fliers that harshly attacked the rival Putting Students First slate.
In contrast, the Putting Students First slate, which featured two incumbents including long time board member Joanne Schaeffer, spent only $3,003 and were outspent by a more than six to one margin. The Putting Students First slate did not file a campaign spending report or file with the state Board of Elections because they did not raise or spend $5,000 which is the threshold for being required to file with the state. Marge Hubacek, school board president, handled finances for the Putting Students First slate and told the Landmark how much the slate spent.
Getty’s own campaign committee, Citizens for Christopher Getty, was the largest single donor to the PSE slate contributing $6,815 in seven separate donations ranging from $915 to $995. By keeping each separate contribution just below the $1,000 threshold that triggers immediate reporting and publication on the Board of Elections web site the Getty campaign committee assured that Getty’s financial support to the PSE slate would not be made public until after the April 2 election. Contributions of less than $1,000 need only be reported quarterly.
Getty’s local political party, the United Citizens Party, chipped in an additional $3,585 to the PSE campaign committee in seven separate contributions including one of $985 and one of $995, just under the $1,000 threshold.
The law firm of Odelson & Sterk, contributed $4,275 to the PSE campaign in five separate contributions, all of which were below the $1,000 threshold including one of $975 and another of $950. Odelson & Sterk, headed by noted election lawyer Burt Odelson, was the district’s law firm from 2015 to 2017 when Getty backed school board members held the majority of the board.
Citizens for Marty Stack, the campaign committee for the former District 103 Human Resources Director Marty Stack, contributed $1,400 to the PSE campaign committee in two donations including one of $975. Stack, a lawyer, was hired by District 103 as its HR director in December 2015 when the Getty backed board members held the majority on the school board. Stack left the district in 2017 after the board majority flipped and after Stack lost a race for the Cook County Board of Review.
Last fall Stack filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor which then ruled that the school board president Marge Hubacek violated the Open Meetings Act when she cut off public comment at a Oct. 22 school board meeting after nine people made comments relating to the district’s hiring of a teacher who was facing charges of attempted murder. That hire was a big focus of the PSE candidate’s campaign.
Both the PSE campaign committee and the Integrity PAC which sent out the negative mailings will be fined a couple hundred dollars for filing their campaign disclosure reports two days late said Matt Dietrich, the spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
The Integrity PAC spent all its money on printing and postage to mail out two mailers that harshly attacked the Putting Students First candidates and the district administration. Its mailers featured a mug shot of Andres Rodriguez, the teacher who was facing charges of attempted murder when he was hired by District 103 last summer. Rodriquez was immediately removed from his George Washington Middle School classroom and subsequently fired after district officials learned of the charges against him.
The man behind the Integrity PAC is, apparently, Joseph Hurt although the PAC’s filing papers with the state in Jan. 2017 only identifies the PAC’s chairman and treasurer as J. Hurt. The PAC’s address is a post office box in Riverside.
Over the last two years Hurt has donated $2,500 to the Integrity PAC in $500 increments only identifying himself as J. Hurt. Hurt appears to be Joseph Hurt of LaGrange, a man who contributed $200 to Citizens for Christopher Getty in 2015 and gave $250 to Citizens for Marty Stack in 2016. A phone call to Hurt requesting comment was not returned.
The Integrity PAC also spent nearly $3,000 in 2017 on a mailer attacking then school board candidates Hubacek, Sharon Anderson, and Shannon Johnson. Despite the attack Anderson, Hubacek, and Johnson were elected and they, along with Schaeffer, have formed the majority on the school board for the last two years.
Money may not have been the key factor in Putting Students First slate’s defeat. In 2017 Anderson, Johnson, and Hubacek were badly outspent spending only about $4,700 while the Getty backed slate they defeated spent about $35,000 according to state filings.
With Schaeffer gone next week the board majority will flip to the four Getty backed candidates, including incumbent Jorge Torres, who are expected to sworn in next week.